As travel starts to slowly allow for movement around the globe, it forces us to begin asking many new questions. What types of protocols must we now follow, where can we go, and how do we safely enter those different countries outside of our own? I've had multiple experiences traveling internationally through COVID now and am preparing for another, so I am here to eliminate some of those "travel fears" to help you prepare for and book your next destination.
Where do I begin? Start by researching your final destination country and all of its "foreign" guidelines. Do they require COVID testing before flying, after arrival, or both? If so, what kind... Rapid, PCR, or Rapid PCR. Make sure you inquire how and where a test must be done once you have arrived in your destination country so you can take it at the proper time. This option typically helps you avoid quarantining for 14 days. Also, note if the pre-flight COVID test needs to be done within 72 hours of your departure time or your arrival at your final destination.
When beginning to look for flights, follow up with the airline's COVID guidelines for their required testing as well. Usually, they will require the same type as the country you're traveling to, but you want to be sure as regulations and flight routes are constantly changing. If you are mandated to quarantine, how long must it be for, do you have a location to do so, and do you have someone to help if you are unable to leave your location during that period. Again, regulations are constantly changing so be sure to check that your arrival country doesn't intend on changing its quarantine or testing policy before your arrival date when booking in advance. A good resource is that country's embassy or government page referring to foreign travelers.
Where do I get my COVID test for international travel? When I went to Tahiti out of LAX, Air Tahiti recommended a location in Beverly Hills, My Concierge MD, that was reliable to their requirements and had the option to book appointments for it ahead of time and on the weekend. This time I am flying with Air France asking for the same PCR Rapid Test required to fly and enter Germany, but I did my research to find a location in San Diego that wasn't through the actual airline. US Specialty Labs is the best location I found that offers "Travel COVID PCR-RT" by appointment and has already successfully been used by a friend of mine.
I would suggest booking your flight first, then make an appointment for your COVID test. The tests typically cost around $185-$220 depending on location and rushing charge. I know it's costly but under these circumstances, I always think its better safe than sorry to pay for the rush charge on top.
When traveling to Tahiti, we booked traveler's insurance to cover COVID related issues through Allianz Travel Protection Plan. Be sure to check their website for full Terms and Conditions.
Under Emergency Medical Care Benefit: Emergency medical care for a customer who becomes ill with COVID-19 while on their trip.
Under Trip Cancellation or Trip Interruption Benefits: Trip cancellation and trip interruption if a customer becomes ill with COVID-19 either before or during their trip.
These accommodations are strictly applicable to COVID-19 and are only available for customers whose plans include the applicable benefit.
Next is preparing the necessary paperwork. What does your final destination country require you to do before flying? For example, I am traveling to Germany with permission from their government for the purpose of "Long Term Relationship Reunification." I must have a COVID test within 72 hours of my departure flight, another COVID test 4 days into my stay, a quarantine period between those two tests, a written invitation by my boyfriend, a copy of all his resident and passport information, and a handful of travel paperwork like for a travel visa as part of our reunification processing.
What do I need at the airport and on my flight? Make sure you have a comfortable mask that you're prepared to wear the entire time from airport arrival to airport departure. You are allowed to take it off to eat your meals during your flight, but it must remain on under all other circumstances. I highly recommend bringing hand sanitizer and wipes for extra cleaning purposes; your seat belt, tray table, etc. The airline also provides sanitation wipes and a mask in case you forget or need an extra.
There's no need for any stress or concern around the flight process. The flight attendants and airport security do a great job regulating the normal procedure, as well as, upholding the new health and safety regulations implemented during COVID. Just my personal preference, when I first came home from Germany during the higher COVID alert, I made sure to use wipes to wipe down all of my bags that may have been on the baggage claim and overhead lockers. Again, that was just my way of feeling more safe than sorry before meeting my parents.
Upon arrival at your location, you'll go through a bit more extensive customs protocol checking the necessary papers they required that you will have prepared, along with the regular international briefings. In Tahiti, this is where they gave me my "take-home" COVID test to self-administer and turn into a drop off location on day 4 of my trip. It was very easy; we did both a nasal and mouth swab test, and then chose a drop off location from a long list of options offered around the island. If you're COVID free you won't even hear back from anyone after the drop-off, and you're clear to carry on freely for the remained of your trip! Reminder, this may not be the same process in other countries. For example, Germany will make me quarantine between flight arrival and my self-administered COVID test on day 4.
A few people have asked me, is this process worth the hassle in order to travel? My answer is hands-down, YES it is worth it! It's not at all as intimidating to organize as it may seem, and it is much better than any 14-day quarantine. So with that said, if you have any further questions, comment or leave me a message and I'll help guide you further! Until then, my countdown timer is on, my appointments are made, my paperwork is all filled out, and I am beyond excited to be safely reunited with my boyfriend Germany! Bon voyage... Safe travels to you too!